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No matter how many times you have gone through it, selling a house is a time-consuming and stressful job. Going from being comfortable and relaxed in your own home to inviting strangers to walk through and critique every detail is not an undertaking you want to prolong. This article describes ten steps to make selling your house as painless as possible.
1. Set a realistic price.
The fact is, it doesn't really matter what you think your house is worth. What matters is what the market, and more importantly, the buyer thinks it is worth. If you price it too high, then best case you cut way down on the buyer pool, or worst case, it never sells. Remember, if you are paying a mortgage, you are making less profit each month it sits unsold on the market.
2. Cut down on clutter, especially in closets.
Face it, you never have enough storage space. Closets, cabinets and drawers always fill up. That is one of the things every potential buyer is looking for because they don't have enough storage space either. Make your house looks like it has an overabundance of storage by emptying closets and cabinets. Make sure every closet, drawer and cabinet is about half empty. If you have a particularly large closet or pantry, emphasize this by increasing the empty space. A great master closet can seal the deal.
3. Find a fantastic agent.
This is the single most important task. You need an agent that is actively working the market and trying to sell your home. You don't want someone who will create a listing, stick a sign in your yard and hope for the best. Research your potential agent. How long have they been doing the job and what are their performance and history? Are you comfortable with them and trust them? If you don't the buyer probably won't either. Also, make sure they understand the technology used today. If they show up with a pile of paper, beware. They need to be tech-savvy and able to use the latest tools to get your home in front of the most potential buyers. A great agent will also help you set your house at the right price and make recommendations about upgrades and repairs.
4. Make it light, bright and cheery.
Buyers don't want to walk into a home that looks like their great-aunt's dark parlor. The entire house needs to be bright and well lit. Make sure all windows are clean inside and out. Cut back shrubs and trees that put too much shade on the home. Make sure all the lights work and have high wattage bulbs. When someone is looking at your home, make sure all the drapes are open and the lights are on.
5. Make a great online impression.
At some point, buyers will drive around with their agent and look at homes just like they have always done. But before that, they will be looking at homes online. Make sure your listing is complete and optimized for online viewing, especially on tablets and phones. This is why you need a tech-savvy agent. Potential buyers and their agents will do their research online before they even begin to make a list of houses to view. Yours needs to have great pictures as well as complete and accurate descriptions that will pop online and attract buyers.
6. Be selective about upgrades.
If you have lived in your home for any length of time, there are things you know need doing. Perhaps they are things you have put off because you didn't want to spend the time or money. Well, now it's time to make that investment. First, take a look at the small stuff. Repair or replace leaky faucets, faulty lights, sticky doors, and anything that just doesn't work. Then put on a fresh coat of paint, inside and out. If it hasn't been painted in a few years, it needs it, whether you can see it or not. Take a look at the carpet and flooring. Have all the floors professionally cleaned and replace any carpet that is worn or beyond cleaning. But don't go crazy on major upgrades either. This is an investment. Putting $10,000 into your home so you can get an extra $5,000 out of it doesn't make sense either.
7. Look at your kitchen and bathrooms.
Having said that, take a good look at your kitchen and bathrooms. These are the rooms that will make or break the sale. If these rooms are dated, an upgrade will usually pay for itself. If you can't afford a major remodel or don't think the return is there, at least paint and wallpaper, and replace cabinet hardware and faucets. These few things can add new life to an old kitchen or bathroom.
8. You are always selling, so be ready.
You don't have to be on call 24/7, but you do have to be ready to show your home at a moment's notice. You will have agents call your home from their cell phone sitting out front with a car full of potential buyers. Keep the place dusted and vacuumed. Make sure the kitchen and bathrooms are always shiny. Don't ever leave dishes in the sink or in the dishwasher or food on the counters. Forego the fish and other smelly foods while you are selling. You want to make sure at any time, you can open the door to the person who is going to want to buy your house.
9. Make it appealing from the curb.
Curb appeal is almost a cliché, as is the old saying about making a first impression. But like many clichés, there is the ring of truth to it. Many times a decision about whether to even look at a house is made from the street. If the outside doesn't look nice, is in bad repair, or uninviting, why would they waste their time coming inside? If you need to, hire a professional landscaper to keep the yard always looking its best. Have them plant seasonal flowers so something is always in bloom. Make sure the driveway and sidewalk is always swept. Clean up and repair the entrance, so it is absolutely perfect. Speaking of which, buy a new doormat and keep it clean. If buyers can't get past the outside, they are never going to see the inside, no matter how nice it is.
10. Pack away the personal stuff.
When people are looking at your home, they are thinking about how they will live in it and decorate it. They can't do that with a portrait of your Aunt Trudy over the fireplace or the bookshelves overflowing with your snow-globe collection. You will hopefully be moving soon and everything will need to be packed anyway. Go ahead and pack up all the personal stuff and put it in storage. Make sure shelves, mantles and tabletops are clean and uncluttered. Give the buyers a blank canvas so they can envision painting it with their own possessions.
The more work you do before putting your house on the market, the easier the process will be once it is listed. Follow these tips and sell your house in less time for more money.